Sattar Minute: The "Chak De India" Review
The "Success of the Underdog" style of movie making - Gotta love 'em! Especially when they have a sports angle, it synchronizes the climax better. Bollywood hasn't traditionally had too many such Sports/Underdog flicks, and Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander was probably the last decent attempt. Haven't seen Goal so can't comment, but I heard that it was more focused on the racism aspect.
I wouldn't classify Lagaan in this category, because it had the whole historical/patriotic angle thrown in, which took away from the sportiness of it. Although the cricket theme did help substantially in Lagaan's success in India. But its even more challenging when you take a sport like hockey, which is as 'brick and mortar' a sport as it gets. Stick, ball, goal, with a few fouls thrown in. Cricket has so many intricacies, vagaries and variations, which can keep you engaged - many of which Lagaan used effectively.
But I give it to Shimit "Chhappan" Amin for creating an effective "feel-good" movie, generating awareness about how the Sports Authority of India ensures that segmented sports in India live under the shadow of their sensationalized, glamorous and celebrity-powered step-sister, cricket. The cast was believable and real. I did feel that every character didn't get enough identity though. There was significant focus on Preeti Sabharwal (Lord! Sagarika Ghatge rocks my world, btw), Komal, Bindya and the Punjabi one. Unlike Lagaan, where each character had their own identifiers and idiosyncrasies which grew on you - all 12 of them.
Also, and I know this is a strange qualm to have, but the story really wasn't complicated enough. It definitely needed more substance, beyond the fact that, given the right motivation and practice, a weak team can win the World Cup. Especially the penalty shot climax. Pretty standard stuff. I mean, from the first scene of this movie, we know that this movie is going to have a happy ending where forgotten glory is going to be revived, and a bunch of female hockey players are going to emerge victorious. But the challenge is to make a predictable story so gripping, that you suspend the viewers ability to predict the future of the film, by his intense involvement in the present. This genre calls for a few more additional twists which would have made Chak De, a little more "edge-of-seat"-ish and a little less predictable. Like, say, the opposition team trying some underhanded stuff. Or one of the team's players working for the opposition (like Laakha in Lagaan), and turning around at the last minute.
And I know that was my umpteenth cross-reference to Lagaan - but its purely attributed to the fact that I don't have too much else to compare to in Bollywood.
Although, the crowning glory of Chak De was that The King didn't take away from his subjects. SRK blended so well into the role of "Kabir Khan", with a look reminiscent of his character in Swades, that he allowed the focus of the film to remain on the team, the sport and the storyline. And as always, his was a seasoned and brilliant performance. Especially in the "sattar minute" pep talk sequence.
The background score was signature Salim-Suleiman. Songs were nothing to write home about at all, with the distinct exception of "Maula Mere Lele Meri Jaan". Its in a very thought-provoking and moody raag.
The hook line sounds a lot like "nahin kuch sivaa pyaar ke" from that Anuradha Paudwal song (God, from the school of annoying Nadeem Shravan flop songs from the 90s that just sit in your head, coming back to haunt you decades later. Can totally imagine sitting in a retirement home someday, and humming "Zamaane ke dekhe hain rang hazaar").
Verdict? Definitely not historic, but capable of swaying the direction of the Bollywood film armada by a few degrees towards ports of meaningful entertainment. My guess is that there will be more like this in the next few years, and I do hope that we start to see more "independent" cinema.
And my favorite line in Chak De was definitely, "Cricket ki tarah, humaare hockey mein chhakke nahin hote". Freaking Sweet!